Driving from NY / NJ to NOLA for Mardi Gras!

Got an invite to Mardi Gras? Check!

Got a place to stay? Check!

Got transportation to NOLA? Ch…well, wait a second? Flights were $800 from NY to NOLA so we had to pass on that, which lead to a ROAD TRIP!!!!!!!!

I absolutely love road trips. There are so many things to see and do in the US that we miss out on because we are so intent on where we need to be instead of thinking about the journey of how to get there. New Orleans is approximately 20 hours from New York City so we had a lot of hours to fill.

I created a long list of things that I thought we may want to see along the way but because of timing, this is what we ended up with:

Our first stop was a guitar shaped building in Bristol, TN. You can easily see the guitar from the visitor’s center parking lot which is immediately after the first exit in Tennessee. We did a quick stop to take a couple of pictures and continued on our way.

Our next intended stop was Pigeon Forge, TN, but somehow we missed the entire town. We saw signs for a scenic natural park which I can only assume was Great Smoky Mountains National Park but wanted to know if there was a particular route we should try to venture on that would not take us too far out of the way. We ended up stopping in a town (which I have sadly forgotten the name of) and stopped in the visitor’s center to ask driving advice. There we met a lovely lady named Catherine who had stories galore and even remembered to show us a route that would bring us into an area of the park that was preserved from the olden days. Unfortunately, because we were driving south, it was out of the way for us but we hoped to see it on the way back.

Our next stop was the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Alabama. It is basically like a giant Goodwill so it’s hit or miss on whether or not you will find treasures for yourself. For us, we didn’t try very hard to find bargains, but we still were able to purchase cute cowboy boots for $30, sneakers for $13, new ink for my printer, new socks, a hat, a purse, and we could have bought a lot more. Everything we found was in great condition. There were things like camping gear that I debated on purchasing but decided against it because I didn’t want to risk not having all the pieces, or damaged pieces. Overall, it was just a fun shopping experience.

Our last stop on the trek down to NOLA was Natural Bridge Park in Alabama. After dealing with wrong directions from Google Maps and driving all over timbuktu trying to find this place, we finally decided to call them and ask directions. Once you know where it is, it is really easy to find. Just continue west on 278-W past Route 5, go down the hill and you will see a sign for the park on the right side. Turn on County Road 3500 and BAM! the park is right down the road.

We were welcomed to the park by a little dog running up to our car. I opened up the door and said to come in. He hopped in the car and promptly gave us kisses and cuddles while we parked the car. As we exited the car, two little brown puppies came over to welcome us as well! We were in heaven!. We were also fortunate enough to arrive at the park when Barbara and her husband were were working. They were such lovely people. Barbara looked at my friend and told him that he has native blood in him. We stayed and talked with them for a bit, then continued on to see the bridge. The puppies joined us for the trek.

If you have time, definitely stop in at this park. It is a beautiful space that doesn’t take long to enjoy. Continue on the path past the bridge to enjoy a wishing well and additional bridges/ledges. We arrived late in the day so we had the trail to ourselves (and the puppies!). If you bring lunch, you can even stop and eat on a bench at the wishing well or near one of the many little waterfalls along the paths.

We ended up arriving in NOLA at a pretty bad time – 11:45pm. We were staying at the Marriott on Canal Street and didn’t realize that parades go right along Canal. We drove around for almost 2 hours trying to find a decent parking lot to put the car in. We couldn’t even get close to the hotel to unload our bags. Had we arrived just a couple of hours later, we could have easily parked the car and been on our way.

Ultimately, we threw the car into a lot about 6 blocks away that cost $40 a night (which was the same price as hotel parking and $10 cheaper than a slightly closer lot). We dragged our bags through the Mardi Gras revelers and checked into the hotel…………then promptly fell asleep!

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